Balance impairment in patients with COPD

PLoS One. 2015 Mar 13;10(3):e0120573. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0120573. eCollection 2015.


Background/purpose: Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a respiratory disease that results in progressive airflow limitation and respiratory distress. Physiopathological features of COPD suggest that people who suffer from this disease have many risk factors for falls that have been identified in older individuals. The aim of the study was to compare and quantify functional balance between COPD patients and healthy subjects; to investigate the risk of falls in acute stages of the disease and to identify risk factors that could lead to falls.

Methods: We studied 46 patients with moderate-severe COPD (29 stable and 17 in acute exacerbation--AECOPD) and 17 healthy subjects (control group) having similar demographic data. We analyzed the difference in Berg Balance Scale (BBS), Single Leg Stance (SLS) and Timed Up and Go test (TUG) between these three groups and the correlation of these scores with a number of incriminatory factors.

Results: The presence of COPD was associated with significant worsening of balance tests: BBS (55 control, vs. 53 COPD, vs. 44 AECOPD points p<0.001), TUG (8.6 control vs. 12.3 COPD vs. 15.9 AECOPD seconds. p<0.001), SLS (31.1 control vs. 17.7 COPD vs. 7.2 AECOPD seconds p<0.001) which may be associated with an increased risk of falls. Anxiety and depression were significantly associated with decreased balance test scores; anxiety (2 control vs. 6 COPD vs. 9 AECOPD points p<0.001) depression (2 control vs. 7 COPD vs. 12 AECOPD points p<0.001).

Conclusions: According to our results COPD patients in moderate-severe stages and especially those in exacerbation have a high risk of falls.

MeSH terms

  • Accidental Falls
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Postural Balance*
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / physiopathology*
  • Risk Factors

Grants and funding

These authors have no support or funding to report.